Fan Favourite ‘Fletch’ was Football Mad
Trent Bridge favourite Luke Fletcher told the November meeting of the Nottingham Cricket Lovers Society (NCLS) that had things worked out differently when he was a schoolboy, he might now be parading his sporting prowess North of the Trent.
“As a young lad, I was football mad”, he said, “I never even thought about cricket then. All I wanted to do was kick a ball”.
It wasn’t too long before his enthusiasm was rewarded with an invitation to Meadow Lane to join their age-group players. “Unfortunately,” Fletch recalled, “Notts County soon released me – something about not being agile enough – and I was pretty much fed up with football at that point”.
A family friend invited him to join Bulwell CC and he soon found a new passion. “I fell in love with the game straight away”, he said, “and I was happy to do anything to be involved – mowing the grass, pushing the roller and putting out the boundary flags – as well as playing whenever I got the chance”.
When Bulwell folded, Fletcher joined Papplewick and it was there that his commitment to the game blossomed. “I was used to turning up in my own kit and sharing a bag of bats and pads then at Papplewick we were all in whites, proper kit and well organised cricket – I learned very quickly”.
So quick was his progress that Luke auditioned for the Notts Under-13s but did not make the cut; two years later he was back at Trent Bridge and was selected for the county Under-15s. He began to make friends with his contemporaries who were to form the basis of the Notts First Eleven for many years – sharing a flat with Alex Hales, training with the likes of Samit Patel and Jake Ball – and those bonds certainly helped when he was injured in 2017 and again early in the 2023 season.
Fletch paid tribute to the support that he got from the club and his team-mates when struck on the head by a full-blooded drive from Warwickshire’s Sam Hain just days after what he called ‘the best day of my cricketing life’ when The Outlaws beat Surrey to win the 50-over Royal London Cup at Lord’s in 2017.
That blow put an end to his season and could have meant his playing days were over but, with the help of the medical team at Trent Bridge and the backing of his family, Luke Fletcher was back in harness for the 2018 season.
If 2017 was a difficult year for someone who thrives on being in the action – Fletch is definitely in the ‘you get fit for bowling by bowling’ school – then 2020 was even more frustrating. When Covid struck, he – along with millions of others – found himself at home and having to be his own trainer and coach.
“Initially, we thought lockdown would be for three weeks or so”, he said. “But it just went on. It was hard – keeping fit, home schooling and just being away from the game.
“I was able to grab a few fitness things like weights to take home from Trent Bridge and did a lot of cycling and walking. I was bowling balls at the garage to keep myself ready!”
Whatever he did must have worked for he had his best ever season in red ball cricket when the revamped county programme was introduced for 2021.
With 66 wickets, Luke topped the bowling charts. “It just clicked”, he remembered, “the rhythm was there. We had a great season and should have been champions – I am sure that if we’d been in a normal Division One campaign, Notts would have been champs.”
Fletcher was at the NCLS meeting to mark the end of his testimonial year which had just one last event to come.
“It has been a great year,” he said. “So many people have pitched in to help and we’ve had some really good events.
“I feel a bit guilty, though, because I haven’t been able to play and it feels wrong to be asking people for support when I’m not out on the pitch”. Fletch played only five First XI games before injury ruled him out for the remainder of the season.
His testimonial programme included dinners, golf days and many fund-raising events. When asked to nominate a lead charity for his testimonial year, it was without question for ‘Fletch’ to nominate PASIC which provides practical, social, emotional and financial support for families of children and young people with cancer in the East Midlands.
Luke also became a Trent Bridge Trust ambassador and made a contribution to the PCA. Donations will be made to PASIC and the PCA at the end of the testimonial year. NCLS President Bill Russell made a cheque presentation to Luke Fletcher in support of his fund-raising campaign.
Luke’s campaign remains open and donations or purchases can still be made at https://www.lf23.co.uk/
A new website for the Society was also announced at the November meeting and can be found at www.nottinghamcricketlovers.co.uk
Membership of NCLS is £15pa or entry on the night for £5 per session. Full details of the 2023/24 programme from email@example.com.
Copies of Luke’s book, Tales from the Front Line are available in the Wynne Thomas Library for NCCC members to borrow.